During the week I was reading the Report of the Task Force on University Libraries for Harvard University. As one does.
It was quite interesting reading, which left me pondering on the differences and similarities between organisations both small and large, and also rich and poor. Apparently Harvard University libraries “system now includes 73 separate libraries with 1,200 full-time employees, 16.3 million volumes, 12.8 million digital files, over 100,000 serial titles, and millions of manuscripts, photographs, musical recordings, films, and artifacts of all kinds, making it by far the largest university library in the world.” Not surprising for an institution with a billion dollar budget. The library operating budget alone last year was $159 million. The mind boggles.
And yet they only have 20,000 students. Auckland university last time I checked had more students, and I’m sure that Auckland doesn’t operate on that sort of budget, or have that sort of staffing. Harvard has close to one librarian for every 1,000 students, or one library for every 273 students.
But now they are looking at restructuring. It is felt that the libraries are not functioning as a 21st century library system, and that to do so they need to centralise. Harvard is also worried about budgetary constraints and the cost of acquiring materials. Thus they want to move to a single library collection. I mean they only spent $34 million last year in acquisitions. Ones years acquisitions could probably run my library for a hundred years. One of the things that really astounds me is that the bulk of the money is raised through private means.
Maybe they need to run a few more bake sales.